Faithfulness in Education: Towards An Educational Philosophy
Matthew 22:34-40 – “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’“This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Personal Philosophy of Education
What is the point of education in a biblically saturated worldview? Education cannot simply be about the accumulation of facts, but rather about the laying of the right foundation for life and godliness. We live in a “fact-saturated” world. With the internet and other digital resources, there is no knowledge that is not accessible to anyone at any given time. Rather, education is about wisdom in seeking knowledge, remembering ultimately from whom all knowledge and ability to know comes. Biblical education is about wisdom and faithfulness. Biblical education is more akin to discipleship than modern, purely intellectual exercises. Faithfulness to Christ is the ultimate goal to which Christians strive. What is faithfulness, and why?
Biblically speaking, faithfulness is defined through at least two words, one Hebrew and one Greek (the languages of the Old and New Testament). The Hebrew word emeth (firmness, faithfulness, truth) has a semantic range from “faithful” (10x) to “truth” (80x). This means that to “be faithful” means also to live according to what is the “truth.” In like manner the Greek word pistos also has a semantic range including both “faithful” (44x) and second, “trustworthy” (7x). Both words point to a biblical definition of faithfulness as being “consistent, reliable and trustworthy as stewards of truth.” What does this have to with athletics?
The truth of the matter about education is that the accumulation of facts for the purpose of earning degrees is not the end goal towards which we strive, but only a means. Grades do not finally reflect what is most important about the souls of our students. As Christians, education is a means to glorifying Christ (Col. 3:17). And, you cannot glorify Christ if you are not “faithful with the truth.” So then, what is the truth?
First, any educational endeavor of life is secondary to the lordship of Jesus. Idolizing mere knowledge or educational standards over knowing, loving and following Christ is not only a demonstration of faithlessness, but also evidence that we educators are not living according to what is true, namely Jesus’ supremacy over everything. Second, an educator or students glorifies Jesus when he is a good steward of the abilities he has been granted by God. Intellectual laziness and apathy are both evidences of faithlessness (because one is unfaithful with the talents God has granted) and a denial of the truth (living as if my life and abilities are about me, and not Him). Third, an overemphasis on learning “for learnings’ sake” creates an illusion, or a “non-truth.” The goal cannot simply be to accumulate facts. Why? There are numerous examples in Scripture and life where an accumulation of facts leads to death. (ex. Mt. 23:15) When anything supplants growing “in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man”, something is amiss in Christian education. Success without Christ is final failure. This is not only true in education, but in life as well.
If “Faithfulness” is the Pursuit, How Does “Faithfulness” Affect Education?
Paul says it this way: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Knowledge that demonstrates love for God and others is the point of true education.
So how do we educate biblically? First, then, we point students to Jesus, to true reality. Without him, we are living in ultimate faithlessness and un-truth. Why? We were created in His image to glorify Him (Gen. 1; Isa. 43:7). Living outside of Christ is a demonstration of a prideful, arrogant heart (Rom. 1:21; 8:5-7). Living such a life is also a denial of the reality that we need Him for our every breath (Acts 17:24-28).
Second, being faithful according to truth means assessing accurately the skills and talents of the students. Each student has been granted abilities, and by properly assessing these abilities, it will be possible to being pushing the students towards excellence in education and discipleship. And, in all places where it is possible, remember that students are individuals and will learn best when treated as such, not as “another body at another desk.” Whatever their unique ability, they are to glorify Christ with that ability. My two children are already as different as can be. Why would I assume the hundreds of students walking our halls are the same? This is undoubtedly the hard part of education. We must be faithful with each individual, treating them as individuals, meeting each student where they are. Jesus talked about worship with the woman at the well, money with the rich young ruler, and bread crumbs with the Syro-Phoenician woman. Each individual treated, loved and pushed as individuals.
Third, and finally, faithfulness will mean placing the educators in classrooms so as to be faithful to the hard task of seeing young people grow. We should not overemphasize fact-acquisition because the amount of facts one could learn is truly overwhelming. While we must teach facts, far, far more important is the ability to teach young people how to think, how to weigh facts for positive value. The internet can teach facts, only a living, breathing, caring soul can teach, or rather lead, someone in the process of truly thinking. Teaching is not for everyone. Schools should understand that not everyone “qualified” to be an educator should be an educator. Rather, schools must seek out those who will labor to “make disciples” who think, act and love like Christ. And, this is not something that happens through 180 days of lecture.
May I (and we) be faithful to the task King Jesus has called us. May we not be complacent, but faithfully push forward truthfully towards Him and His Kingdom. Along the way, may we grow as educators, students and parents as we faithfully steward the gifts and talents He has given. May we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.